The Corona Diaries Part II –

Day Whatever…It’s over a month since my last blog post and the diary entries remain the same: Exercise, interspersed with the weekly shopping trip, the distribution of groceries to elderly family members, nurturing my veggie seeds and the knitting project (only one sleeve left to complete). Joe Wicks is right, endorphins are good for you.

However, firmer thighs are not the only positive improvements in recent weeks. The writing mojo is back, and it wasn’t thanks to a Charles Dickens Masterclass, or even a tutorial from Neil Gaiman, who still regularly pops into my FB feed, but a good old fashioned book. I went back to basics. I sat in my garden and I read.

(Not me not my garden)

With hopes of a summer holiday dashed, I took advantage of the hot sunny Easter weekend, set up the sun-lounger and devoured a serious number of pages in a relatively short space of time. So what was this marvellous book which worked its magic and reminded me of just how much I wanted to be a writer? The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris.

Joanne’s book Chocolat remains one of my all time favourites. The Strawberry Thief picks up the story of the same characters several years on, and just like its predecessor, it’s a book that had me captivated from the word go. It’s one of those books you want to immerse yourself in, to roll amongst the pages, which, as the story reaches its end, you want to turn slower and slower, to savour every moment, to linger, knowing you will feel bereft at leaving behind the characters whose journey you have shared.

This is what I love about writing! Creating that feeling, evoking that emotion. I want to write stories that weave their way into hearts, leaving warm glows of satisfaction, I want readers to invest in my characters, to share their hopes and fears, to cheer them on. And even if my books don’t send readers into a soaring frenzy of appreciation and rapturous exaltation, they might at least put a smile on a face.

So yes, I returned to my keyboard – determined to carry on.

At the start of lockdown Mr T’s conference calls were an unwelcome intrusion in my creativity. Now they have become my background white noise. And I’ve done more than just write, I’ve bitten the bullet and started submitting my new book (previously referred to as my WIP) to a handful of literary agents. Submitting is a laborious process and quite naturally no two agents want the same thing (why make things easy?) Every e-mail has to be hand-crafted and attachments customised. Naturally I’ve heard nothing back, which isn’t totally unexpected. I’ve been here before. I know how long these things take and this time I will be patient. I know the system. I’m older and wiser this time round. I also know publishers, and readers, want a series, a ‘brand’, so I’ve picked up where I left off,  and am continuing with a half-baked sequel (the new WIP), which is now growing daily, despite the attention seeking endeavours of Ed the cat (who seems to be going through a period of lockdown neurosis) to distract me.

Ed pleased to be back at his desk

But then disaster struck! Just as that enthusiasm returned,  I discovered a particularly picky 2* Review on Amazon for the Theatre of Dreams.  I’m a writer, my books are out there in the big wide world and I know everyone is entitled to their opinion, but remember guys, although I’ve done my best to develop a writer’s suit of armour, that rhinoceros thick skin, every little knock still hurts!  All those insecurities returned. Do I really have what it takes? Am I totally wasting my time? Why couldn’t they just keep quiet if they didn’t like it…

The last thing I need is a bad review when agents might be checking out my Amazon page (do they do that?) But then, just days later, this happened (punches air with glee!) – a review for Your Secret’s Safe With Me featuring my favourite word “immersive“:

“Sometimes I get to read a book that stays with me days after I have finished it and this is one of those books. Deeply immersive, beautifully drawn characters, and an intriguing family drama. Highly recommended.”

I know I can’t please all of the people all of the time, but I don’t have to. That’s not why I write. Some of the people, some of the time will do for me (although obviously if any literary agents are out there reading this, then of course my books will appeal to absolutely everybody…)

https://www.rosietravers.com/your-secrets-safe-with-me/

https://www.rosietravers.com/the-theatre-of-dreams/

The Corona Diaries

I know everyone is doing this right now – keeping their ‘lockdown diary’ – preserving this moment in time for future generations.  If your daily routine is anything like mine, then these diaries are hardly going to be riveting reading.  

Woke up, got up, had breakfast, stayed home….

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bored. I’m filling my day, and there’s no end of suggestions out there of how to spend this ‘idle time.’ However, I’m ignoring them.

The internet clearly knows I’m a writer because my FB and Twitter feed is full of adverts for those author masterclasses. Now is my chance to write like Neil Gaiman or Margaret Atwood. I don’t want to write like Neil Gaiman and certainly not Margaret Atwood (dystopia is not my thing and even less so right now). I’d be perfectly happy writing like Rosie Travers if the words would come and they’re still not. I can’t keep blaming the presence of Mr T in his home office for this – it’s a question of concentration.

I know they tell you when you retire you should take up an intellectual challenge, be it a daily crossword puzzle or learning the violin, to regenerate new brain cells, but retirement is very different from this enforced isolation. I’d be happy to take up on-line Astrophysics if I thought after half an hour I could pop out to the garden centre for a large chunk of carrot cake and a natter with a couple of a girlfriends. But I can’t. That’s the difference.

I don’t need an intellectual challenge, I don’t need that pressure to self-improve, I need feel-good vibes, something to block out that gnawing anxiety, that uncertainty, and not just for myself. Yes I’m healthy, yes thankfully so are my family, but I worry about people I don’t know who’ve lost their loved ones, or their jobs, their livelihoods. The repercussions and implications of this unprecedented situation will be long term.  

We’re all doing our best to cope in whatever way we know how.  My advice, for what it’s worth, is just do something that makes you happy.  If baking is your thing – bake. If it’s jigsaw puzzles, jigsaw. It’s dot-to-dot, just do it!  

Last week I tweeted about my Corona knitting project – and it clearly struck a chord. I received more likes and engagement on that one tweet than I’ve ever had on anything I’ve ever posted about my books.  (Likewise my garden pictures on Instagram although this might reiterate how inadequate I’ve been at book marketing…)

I know there are people out there who will revel in the opportunity to take up a new challenge, who will see the act of sowing a handful of vegetable seeds as the ultimate in the mundane – but each to their own. In troubled times people need to take comfort, and personal well-being has to be paramount. If your lockdown diary consists of a daily timetable of  9.00 am Art with Vincent Van Gogh, 11.00 am Mozart’s Piano Masterclass 12.00 Story telling with Charles Dickens, so be it.

Personally I’m sticking with 9.00 am Joe Wicks  (because we all know exercise produces those feel-good endorphins) 11.00 am limp out to greenhouse to check on seedlings, 12.00 collapse onto sofa, knit.

Eat your heart out Samuel Pepys!

Working From Home

As I’m a writer I’m used to social isolation.  In fact, it was being ‘in isolation’ – moving somewhere new, being stuck indoors, not knowing anyone, having far too much time on my hands – that actually kick-started my writing career. I’m not by nature a gregarious person, I’ve always been quite good at keeping myself amused although I do venture out to meet up with friends once or twice a week, and I do go shopping, go to yoga, go swimming and enjoy long walks in the countryside… but to write, I need solitude.

In theory I should be relishing the conditions that have been now been forced upon us. This is the optimum time to complete another novel. But the problem is I’m very easily distracted, and I’ve never been able to concentrate on my ‘work’ when there are other people in the house.

And that’s the difference with this current period of enforced ‘isolation’. There are now other people in the house.

On the odd occasions Mr T has worked from home in the past he has spread himself out over the dining table.  He’s come home to write reports, or simply to get away from the interruptions of the office for the afternoon. However now he’s working full-time from home, the dining table isn’t practical (and I thought I was the messy one).  He has phone calls to make. In fact I’ve realised that when he is in proper working mode that’s all he does all day, make  phone calls. He needs a designated office space. He needs to be behind a closed door.

Fortunately we had just given my study a bit of a re-vamp and ordered a new compact work-station. My much loved well-travelled old desk had been unceremoniously shuffled along the landing to the box room, where it had to be dismantled to fit through the door, and re-assembled with the vague notion of this room becoming Mr T’s man-cave when he retires (and it is quite literally a cave – north facing room, small window with a view of the exterior wall of the extension, very little day-light). Just in the nick of time! The box room is now Mr T’s official place of work.

I do like a bit of background ‘white noise’ when I’m writing. I usually keep the radio on downstairs, and I’m also an open door type person – and that’s the problem. An open door means come-in. An open door means I can hear Mr T’s phone calls (and he tells me off for shouting when I’m on my mobile to my mother!) And there’s also Skype calls. Yes we nearly had had one of those BBC journalist with the Korean family moments when I didn’t realise he was on camera…

I want to crack on with a new project. Word count so far this week – zero. The garden is looking immaculate and my Coronavirus knitting project (a jumper I shall probably never wear simply because of the connotations of its conception) is coming on nicely. I’ve also dusted off the Wii fit and I’m rising up the Yoga Master rankings. We’re only one week in. Three or four I could possibly cope with as long as the restrictions on going out for exercise don’t tighten. I have devised a walking circuit that gets me out for at least an hour a day and can see it extending to longer. But the prospect of twelve weeks…

I sense tough times ahead. Yes I appreciate we are lucky. Mr T can work from home and is still on full-pay. We are both fit and healthy and fingers crossed that’s the way it will stay. But whether my fingers will hit the keyboard is another matter.

It’s no consolation to be told William Shakespeare wrote his best work while in quarantine from the plague. Good for him is all I can say. Clearly Mrs Shakespeare knew her place and kept well out of his way.